I’m sick of hand slicing cucumbers. Manually crushing chick peas for hummus drives me nuts. If I have to use two knives to blend fat into flour one more time I’ll spit into the biscuit dough.
I’m no gourmet, but I do like to throw together a half decent meal. It just takes so bloody long to chop, slice, blend, mix, grind, hack and toss all this grub together with my bare hands and a limited assortment of centuries-old tools. And though I’ve grown accustomed to manually hacking up foodstuffs to make all variety of dishes, I must say: it sucks.
The geek in me is fed up. I long ago forwent the pen and paper to write. Why should I still be using knife and cutting board to pare?
Enter my obsession with the food processor.
We’re the same age, the food processor and I. Invented in 1971 by MIT graduate Carl Sontheimer, it was based on a basic blender. Often the simplest ideas are the most effective.
The food processor hit the market as Cuisinart two years later. Since then the world has been overwhelmed by knock-offs and copycats. Now it’s virtually a staple in every modern kitchen. Every one except mine, that is.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, having spent my pre-teen years trading my perfect-pastry pies for various baked goods with the neighbourhood housewives. My meringue never failed to impress their dinner guests with its delicacy and flavour. I just couldn’t nail down a Zuchinni Nut Loaf like Mrs. Rhodes.
A glowing childhood memory is of mom finally coercing dad into purchasing a Cuisinart. It was a culinary epiphany when my family first attempted home-made mayonnaise. (Yes, we gathered ’round that new-fangled device like country bumpkins: “You mean, we don’t have to chop the cabbage no more, ma?“) Adding the oil and watching the whole mixture turn white was like the moment I first set eyes on that blonde girl in grade six: true love.
You can do anything with a food processor: slice vegetables quickly, knead bread dough, parse together fat and flour for pastry, mix cookie dough. There’s even a Thai entrepreneur who figured out how to turn elephant dung into paper using one.
When I long ago removed myself from the parental homestead, my sous-chef skills devolved into the manual. Why have I gone so many years without? One sordid word: shame.
Alas, I’m a guy. A dude. Un hombre. And the food processor is stigmatized by gender issues.
Last year I finally made the decision to buy myself a Cuisinart. I hit a kitchen boutique on Broadway in Vancouver. There it was, my beauty, on the shelf. It gleamed in all its efficient plastic and metal newness. I stroked it gently, tried to imagine a fresh batch of mayonnaise blending up inside, milky and smooth. I could almost smell the vinegar.
My reverie was interrupted by the sales clerk, a young woman, who asked, “Is this for your wife?”
I suddenly felt ashamed, like I’d been caught examining lacy undergarments for my own purposes. Of course — food processors aren’t for guys. They are the domain of serious kitcheny womenfolk. I made an excuse and fled the store, blushing.
Friends have chided my desire for a food processor whenever I’ve let it slip, usually after a few beers. Their basic retort: chicks might use kitchen devices, but guys certainly use only knives.
I can’t afford to be branded a food processor pansy by my machismo-stoked buddies. It’s bad enough I avoid their daft sports pools, what if they knew I enjoy spending time in the kitchen instead?
And so I secretly haunt the web sites of Cuisinart, Kitchenaid, Braun, lusting like a pervert ogling porn. My eyes caress their plastic curves, strain to better view the optional blades and accessories. My imagination runs wild with what I’d cram down the food chute, what I’d spatula out into a greased baking pan.
Food processors over the years have drastically improved, tweaked to near perfection: better blades, smarter motors, a variety of bowls. My awe grows at the size of the mouth on the 12-cup Kitchenaid, available in a rainbow of colours (including pink!). As their rated power wattage increases, so does my desire.
Sometimes I stand outside Home Hardware like a teenager at the liquor store, cash in my pocket, working up the nerve to beg a female shopper to acquire the good for me. I can never follow through, though. Instead I go inside and browse the manly power tools, making a clandestine detour en route.
One day I’ll suck it up, confident in my own masculinity, and walk up to the cashier with that massive box so clearly containing an effeminate kitchen product. Heck, I’ll even wear a pink t-shirt for the occasion. If anyone asks, no, it’s for me. I’m a new food processor owner and I’m proud.
Until that day comes, though, I’ll while away the hours at my cutting board, cautious of my fingertips as I stare out the window, imagining how much better things could be… if only I had a food processor.
First published in the Yukon News on Friday, May 12, 2006. (Happy 60th birthday, Mom!)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Canada License.